Saturday, November 19, 2011
"All the while I understood that it was not discouragement or fear or search for a larger field of action and opportunity that was driving me out of the Negro race. I knew that it was shame, unbearable shame. Shame at being identified with a people that could with impunity be treated worse than animals. For certainly the law would restrain and punish the malicious burning alive of animals." This novel by James Weldon Johnson, probably better known for writing the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was first published in 1912. Although it is not actually his autobiography, Johnson lays out the life journey of a man born of a black mother and a white father, but who can pass for white, and the lessons he learns about racial identity in early 20th century America. These life lessons convinces him in the end that it is better to live as an "invisible", ordinary white man in America, than to embrace, nurture and utilize his God given talents and abilities in an effort to contribute to his African-American heritage and it's blossoming and unique culture.
Thought-provoking for sure, the twist and turns in the life of this melodramatic figure, did not lead me to cast a stone of judgement or shake my head in disgust (mixed with pity) towards the character, as much as it led me to understand his surrender to what is easier, rather than to struggle for what is better. He isn't the first... he won't be the last...
"he who is without sin, cast the first stone"...
Friday, November 18, 2011
The Sport of the Gods is a novel by Paul Laurence Dunbar, better known as an African-American poet. It's an intense story about an African-American family in the post Civil War era, who are unjustly accused and ostracized for a crime they didn't commit. While the father is imprisoned, the mother, son and daughter are forced to travel north to New York, to pick up the pieces of their lives. The hardships they experience and endure causes drastic, as well as dramatic changes in their values and relationships with each other.
Once the truth is revealed, too much time and events have transpired for everything to return to the way it was before... a happier and more innocent existence for the family and those responsible for the injustices they suffered.
This novel was published in 1902 and it is indeed a classic read. It moves rather effortlessly through different situations and locations, bringing a rythmic blend to details to engage the reader as it pushes the story along. It uncovers the life and prejudices of the idyllic Southern life and juxtaposes this with the harsh realities of the urban North, also with it's own dynamics of prejudices.